The Good Old Days

Virgo sendsRoger Ebert along:

Such, such were the days. But I stray. I intended to describe the
electricity in the news room when a big story broke. The moon landing.
The resignation of Nixon. The death of Mayor Richard J. Daley. The time
when an L train derailed, and we could see it from the office window.
The afternoon when Jay McMullen, then the Daily News City Hall
reporter, later married to Mayor Jane Byrne, commandeered the paper’s
suite at the Executive House across the river, and phoned the office to
tell us to check out a balcony on the 17th floor. There he was, the
phone to his ear, waving to us, standing next to his girl friend. They
were both both stark naked.

A. J.Liebling once wrote, “Freedom of the press belongs to the man
who owns one.” Not quite right. It also belongs to the people who
produce one, even if they do smoke at their desks.

You know, it’s funny, but I don’t think the world has changed all that much. It’s easy to look at these kids today and bemoan their slackitude or their lack of smoking or their immunity to locker room humor and talk about how we’ve all gone soft, but I have to say, the newsroom world wasn’t all that different when I joined it on an amateur basis in 1993 and then professionally in 1996.

You couldn’t smoke in the office (except in times of EXTREME stress, like during the 2004 election, when exceptions were made) but the camaraderie and the lingo, the brotherhood and the sisterhood, those were there. We didn’t have cubicles. We didn’t have boundaries. We didn’t suffer from any lack of awe at the skills of our senior colleagues or the thrill of learning those same skills and working alongside people who we admired. Things have not changed all that much at all.


One thought on “The Good Old Days

  1. My favorite part:

    One day an inspector from the Chicago Post Office came to our editor, James Hoge, with a puzzling discovery. Several hundred empty envelopes addressed to Ann Landers had been found in the trash behind an address in Hyde Park. With an eerie certainty, Jim called in Milton and asked him for his address. Milton, whose jobs included distributing mail, had been stealing the quarters sent in for Ann Landers’ pamphlet, Petting: When Does It Go Too Far? Discussing his firing after work at Billy Goat’s, he was philosophical: “Hundreds of kids can thank me that they were conceived.”

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